More Words or Less? How to Communicate Effectively

Water and words have a lot in common.

Words bring peace or devastation. Words get stored like tons of water behind a turbine dam such as the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. Beware when the floodgates open! The power produced can light up a state and if not channeled properly can be harmful. Words, similar to water can also be beneficial or destructive. Too much of either is an uncontrolled surge, too little is an ineffective use of the resource.

How to Communicate Effectively

When you are dammed up so to speak with emotions, words are a means of letting off the power of pent-up feelings. Rather than allowing more words to flood over the spillways, i.e. your ability to maintain self-control, try these three steps:

  1. Ask yourself, do I feel heard or understood?
  2. Do you understand your emotions and where they came from?
  3. Say out loud in as few as words possible what you really want and the resulting outcome.

Here’s the point, when the time comes to share, reduce your flood of words packed with emotions; you’ll have more impact with fewer words.

Less is More

Warning, the obvious is about to be spoken. When you say more than another person can handle you’ll get less of a desired result.

Rule #1 – Using fewer words that are energized by emotion gets more focus. More focus gets more understanding. More understanding gets more connection with those you love. More love produces less destructive words. So fewer words with thoughtfulness may equal more love!

Words and water gone wrong?

People go to great effort to get their opinions and thoughts heard or understood. Unfortunately, the words get in the way. I’ve yet to meet someone who can read minds! Although the more my spouse and I work at communication and connecting, she sometimes finishes my sentence.  It’s mysterious!  What is crazy after all the years we’ve spent investing in the art of marital communication we still mess it up.

Words get lost and misunderstood sometimes because of body language or tone of voice. The past memories of offenses that weren’t resolved get piled onto well-meaning intentions and then conversations go haywire! Waterways that are not looked after, can spill over into pathways or roads that are not built for water flow. Erosion sets in and pavement starts to breakdown. Potholes the size of a canyon develop. The water that was meant to irrigate and be helpful, has turned into a destructive force.

Relationships can go wrong when assumptions creep in. We get lazy or run down due to the grind of our daily lives. Words like water if glibly used without thoughtful consideration will eat away at trust and treasured connection. Often people I counsel find themselves confused, hurt, frustrated and stuck due to how words with strong emotions have overrun them. Making assumptions (wrongly) is usually at the bottom of the confusion.

Please turn on Slowly

Earlier it was suggested to ask yourself questions and get in touch with your own emotions before you open up with a torrent of words. Too frequently people fail to get their point across, thinking using more words is better. That seems to be a good idea; however, if the other person you are talking to withdraws, shuts down or freezes up when you begin, that could be a good indication they are not ready to listen.

Be respectful, kind and timely with your communication. The control tower at Hoover Dam opens the spillways after plenty of preparation and protocol.  To just let loose millions of metric tons of water past the turbines all at once, if not prepared could destroy the equipment and waste resources.  Your words are powerful so begin slowly. Let the other person get into sync with your emotion. Is this a good time for them? Go slow.

What if there are Obstacles

What do you mean obstacles? I’ve got stuff to say. I need you to hear me and agree with me! Gentle yet persistent. This is the power of water and well-chosen words.  Words that are well-chosen, timely and gentle are more probable to penetrate a hard heart. Another person is not a problem to be solved but a person to know. First, know your obstacles then use fewer words that are loving to achieve more connection. Words are as powerful as water. When used appropriately, they both bring life.

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Gil Stuart

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